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Owning up.
August 31, 2010 5:25 PM   Subscribe

Fidel Castro takes blame for persecution of Cuban gays. 'Fidel Castro has said that he is ultimately responsible for the persecution suffered by homosexuals in Cuba after the revolution of 1959.' 'The former Cuban president told La Jornada the persecution of gays, who were rounded up at the time as supposed counterrevolutionaries and placed in forced labor camps, was a "great injustice" that arose from the island's history of discrimination against homosexuals. He said he was not prejudiced against gays, but "if anyone is responsible (for the persecution), it's me." "I'm not going to place the blame on others," he said.' But 'there is a Castro who is fighting to introduce radical changes in Cuba.'

'Not the new president, Raul, although he has promised to push through "structural and conceptual" changes to this communist island in the Caribbean. It is Raul's daughter, Mariela Castro. As head of the government-funded National Centre for Sex Education, she is trying to change people's attitudes towards minority groups in the community. She is currently attempting to get the Cuban National Assembly to adopt what would be among the most liberal gay and transsexual rights law in Latin America. The proposed legislation would recognise same-sex unions, along with inheritance rights. It would also give transsexuals the right to free sex-change operations and allow them to switch the gender on their ID cards, with or without surgery. There are limits: adoption is not included in the bill and neither is the word marriage. "A lot of homosexual couples asked me to not risk delaying getting the law passed by insisting on the word marriage," Mariela Castro said.'

Fidel Castro 'said homosexuals had traditionally been discriminated in Cuba, just as black people and women.

But, nevertheless, he admits he didn't pay enough attention to what was going on against the gay community.

"At the time we were being sabotaged systematically, there were armed attacks against us, we had too many problems," said the 84-year-old Communist leader.

"Keeping one step ahead of the CIA, which was paying so many traitors, was not easy."

In 1979, homosexuality was decriminalised and, more recently, there have been efforts to legalise same-sex unions.'
posted by VikingSword (117 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's great to see a political leader accept responsibility for his actions.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 5:32 PM on August 31, 2010 [25 favorites]


It would also give transsexuals the right to free sex-change operations and allow them to switch the gender on their ID cards, with or without surgery.

I like the latter but for some reason I'm bothered by the former. I know the intent of sex-change operations is primarily to bring one's gender in line with their conception of gender, but at the same time I'm bothered by a government subsidizing what is basically cosmetic surgery.
posted by LSK at 5:32 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Castro is such an ass, still railing about the CIA.

Still, this is a very good thing to hear today.
posted by now i'm piste at 5:33 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's great to see a political leader accept responsibility for his actions.

I fully expect George W. "I haven't made any mistakes" Bush to soon repent for his gay-baiting. After all, Ken Mehlman almost did.
posted by VikingSword at 5:36 PM on August 31, 2010


Castro is such an ass, still railing about the CIA.

To be fair: he was referring to the past when the CIA really did conduct sabotage and warfare against Cuba. There's nothing wrong with ranting about that - it's a historical fact, and doesn't stop being a historical fact, just because some time has passed. Now, if he still blamed the CIA/USA for the problems of today's Cuba... he'd only be partially right. The embargo is still devastating - today.
posted by VikingSword at 5:38 PM on August 31, 2010 [51 favorites]


Well, c'mon, Fidel is pretty much the bottom-line guy for EVERYTHING that has happened for the last fifty years in Cuba. This really isn't that big of an admission of anything. No single president of the U.S. is ever responsible for as much as an autocrat like Fidel.
posted by briank at 5:44 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


What.

From Wikipedia:
Castro's admiring description of rural life in Cuba ("in the country, there are no homosexuals"[63]) reflected the idea of homosexuality as bourgeois decadence, and he denounced "maricones" (faggots) as "agents of imperialism".[64] Castro stated that "homosexuals should not be allowed in positions where they are able to exert influence upon young people." [65]

He was not prejudiced against gays? Right.

Also, the form of his interview statement is revealing—claiming lack of prejudice is not the same as presence of support.
posted by polymodus at 5:46 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


now i'm piste: "Castro is such an ass, still railing about the CIA."

Wikipedia says: "Fabian Escalante, who was long tasked with protecting the life of Castro, estimated the number of assassination schemes or attempts by the CIA to be 638."
posted by boo_radley at 5:48 PM on August 31, 2010 [15 favorites]


This really isn't that big of an admission of anything.

?! Other than an all-powerful old guy admitting he was wrong, I guess, nothing to see here folks, move along. How many dictators do you know, you admitted that they were wrong in the first place, and who then did not blame their underlings if they even did admit a policy was wrong? Wow. I mean, I don't think this absolves him of his crimes against gay Cubans, but at least he's admitting culpability of his own free will - he has nothing to gain by this admission. Most old politicians fight to defend their legacy and rarely admit any mistakes, particularly when they are absolute dictators and there's no incentive. Like I said, I'm eagerly awaiting Bush admitting at least partial culpability about anything... and boy, does he have a lot to answer for.
posted by VikingSword at 5:51 PM on August 31, 2010 [19 favorites]


"at the same time I'm bothered by a government subsidizing what is basically cosmetic surgery."

There are a few good things that have occurred in Cuba in the last 50 years (besides my family leaving). Near universal literacy, tremendous investment in education, and strong development of public healthcare. They have the longest life-expectancy in the Caribbean, lowest infant mortality, and one of the lowest HIV/AIDS rates in the world. All pregnant mothers get screened for AIDS, and if testing positive, are given free antiretrovirals to limit infant transmission rates.
I see the "free sex change operation" as an extension of that. Haven't read the article in full yet, but if it's anything like I understand it to be in the US, it's not as simple as waking up one day and deciding to re-arrange the flappy bits. It'll likely have screening, pre- and post-op counseling, etc.

Castro is still an ass.
On previewing: yes, the US (via the CIA and other arms) has been active in shaping Cuba's history for the past 120 years. Remember the Maine? But by claiming that because of outside agitators, he had better, more important things to worry about rather than stop treating homosexuals as 2nd class comrades is a continuation of blaming the Big Bad and passing the buck, deflecting responsibility and serving only to prop up his image.
posted by now i'm piste at 5:53 PM on August 31, 2010 [9 favorites]



Remember when Clinton apologized to Native Americans for everything that happened?

When will Obama apologize to gays for the government's systematic, often violent discrimination against gays? For turning a blind eye to AIDS when it was decimating thousands?

I don't know anything about Castro; I'm sure he's just being a good politician, protecting his legacy. Maybe he's sincere. He must be a smart man, maybe he's had a true change of heart; how many of our parents and grandparents would have treated a gay man with cruelty decades ago?
posted by bukharin at 5:54 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


basically cosmetic surgery

At the risk of derailing: some trans people consider their surgeries (and there are several different kinds of procedures, from genital to chest/breast to facial) to be cosmetic. But for a significant number of others, they really are the difference between lifelong depression (often culminating in suicide) and some sense of normalcy.

Please don't trivialize what can be a medical necessity for some. In the US, the courts have recognized the significance of some of these procedures and have allowed SRS (sex reassignment surgery) to be tax deductible. For a communist nation, it would follow suit they would provide some of these procedures free of charge (If they followed the US tax deduction example, you could see genital surgery for MTFs being offered, but not breast augmentation.)
posted by Wossname at 5:54 PM on August 31, 2010 [36 favorites]


"The CIA was trying to kill me, what was I supposed to do except lock up the faggots in an island prison and have some of them beaten to death by the police? You think you can worry about every little detail in a revolution?"

It's great to see a political leader accept responsibility for his actions.

Anything short of committing seppuku live on television doesn't constitute taking responsibility for Fidel Castro.
posted by Dasein at 5:54 PM on August 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


huh, ..so World War Z is now right?
posted by The Whelk at 5:58 PM on August 31, 2010


but at the same time I'm bothered by a government subsidizing what is basically cosmetic surgery.

Separately from the issue of whether sex reassignment surgery is elective or necessary, this is Cuba we're talking about. The government mediate nearly every transaction between citizens. You think this is stranger than not being able own a car without government permission?
posted by GuyZero at 6:05 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


boo_radley, a security chief talking about assignation attempts isn't exactly a unbiased source. It's job security. My central point is that it's been 50 years since Bay of Pigs, and god knows how long since the last exploding cigar. To claim that being besieged by traitors FORCED you to round up those maricones into concentration camps and label their sexual preference a bourgeois dalliance and them "agents of imperialism" is disingenuous.
posted by now i'm piste at 6:06 PM on August 31, 2010


Fidel Castro is a product of the society he grew up in. Deeply homophobic society (see articles linked in the FPP). When he was in power, he did not have the insight to transcend his prejudice - he probably didn't even know he was wrong. It does not diminish his guilt, and it does not in the least absolve him of his numerous - too numerous to count - crimes. It was monstrous.

But what was interesting to me, and the reason for the FPP, is that here we have an 80+ year old guy, who has actually learned. Who at this late age, has developed. Someone, who has no incentive to develop, because he's worshipped as a demigod. It wasn't bitter necessity that forced his insights. His admission, nonetheless is something pretty unusual. Sure, he's still trying to shift blame and is not abjectly on his knees, but this is quite extraordinary. He's actually risen above his upbringing and old prejudices.

What then are we to make of politicians in the U.S., who are younger by decades, who grew up in a much more free society, who have the benefit of experience that is not being suppressed in a totalitarian system - what are we to make of those politicians who are less enlightened today, today, than an old tyrant on a small island, politicians who practice active homophobia?
posted by VikingSword at 6:07 PM on August 31, 2010 [51 favorites]


"being besieged by traitors FORCED [me] to round up those maricones into concentration camps..." --now i'm piste

"if anyone was responsible (for the persecution), it's me. [...] I'm not going to place the blame on others." --Fidel Castro, from the article.

You can argue about how one takes responsibility for this kind of thing, but isn't saying that Castro's trying to pass the buck somehow demonstrably inaccurate?
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 6:12 PM on August 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


What then are we to make of politicians in the U.S., who are younger by decades, who grew up in a much more free society, who have the benefit of experience that is not being suppressed in a totalitarian system - what are we to make of those politicians who are less enlightened today, today, than an old tyrant on a small island, politicians who practice active homophobia?

That they're basically reflecting the views of a large number of the US population? If they weren't it wouldn't be such an effective political tactic. I mean, the blame is not on the politicians as much as it is on the people. In our system the politicians tend to follow opinion, not lead it.
posted by wildcrdj at 6:13 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


because he's worshiped as a demigod.

Okay this could be me being both A) an outsider and B) not fully informed and C) really cynical but it seems more ...he's at the end of his life, how History paints him is coming up, better to go out taking blame and in line with more modern thought then be thought of as old fashioned or part of some distant past, like ..do you want to be remembered as a force of history or as a statue in a square? I think it's a very graceful and elegant move, masterful, it's a way to be a statue in a square. I know a few gay Cubans and the news is being taken with a mix of "Well, about time, thank you." and "To little too late, the camps where a disgrace." So, I don't know, but it makes me feel beater, which have been the PLAN but I like it when the official voices of governments don't talk about me like I'm parasitic virus.

And obligatory Simpsons quote


"The Americans are all right, they named a street after me in San Fransisco."

*whisper whisper*

"It's full of what?!"
posted by The Whelk at 6:28 PM on August 31, 2010 [8 favorites]


But what was interesting to me, and the reason for the FPP, is that here we have an 80+ year old guy, who has actually learned. Who at this late age, has developed. Someone, who has no incentive to develop, because he's worshipped as a demigod. It wasn't bitter necessity that forced his insights. His admission, nonetheless is something pretty unusual. Sure, he's still trying to shift blame and is not abjectly on his knees, but this is quite extraordinary. He's actually risen above his upbringing and old prejudices.

His words—at least as given in the bbc interview, which was very low on content—are just words. They don't connect any actions that prove that his change is for the better; they don't reveal any changed understanding or insight about gays. It's not clear to me what this politician has learned.
posted by polymodus at 6:34 PM on August 31, 2010


And here's the subtext of that whole 'keeping one step in front of the CIA/we had too many problems/ before: We don't now, because of me.
Which is dogballs, the Cubans I know (exiled or not) have survived DESPITE OF Castro's despotic rule.

You can argue about how one takes responsibility for this kind of thing, but isn't saying that Castro's trying to pass the buck somehow demonstrably inaccurate?

I could have been more accurate in my wording. But leaving out the first part of Castro's quote isn't accurate either. From the post text: He said he was not prejudiced against gays, but "if anyone is responsible (for the persecution), it's me."
It's this failure to fully admit responsibility (and that he was in the past) that's what I would characterize as a mealy-mouthed, half-apology. Kinda like saying "I'm sorry you were offended when I called you a [BAD THING]". It's not a matter of just "anyone [being] responsible"; the fucking Comandante-en-Jefe ordered people rounded up and incarcerated. Of COURCE he's responsible, and blaming the CIA, traitors, the weather, or whoever else it's convenient for that fucker to scapegoat now for his past actions is not a reasonable definition of taking responsibility.
posted by now i'm piste at 6:34 PM on August 31, 2010


He is saying it is bad to discriminate against gay people, and it shouldn't have happened. Isn't that what's important?
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:41 PM on August 31, 2010 [9 favorites]


More importantly, Cuba is moving toward at least some equality for gay people. Is there any doubt, that if he really wanted, he could stop that movement? Yet, he lets it go on. Actions speak louder than words. Of course, nothing can make up for the past, and he's fully culpable for that.
posted by VikingSword at 6:43 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


He is saying it is bad to discriminate against gay people, and it shouldn't have happened. Isn't that what's important?

You mean being politically correct?
posted by polymodus at 6:44 PM on August 31, 2010


OK, so what's his punishment?
posted by fuq at 6:48 PM on August 31, 2010


My central point is that it's been 50 years since Bay of Pigs, and god knows how long since the last exploding cigar.

There's a statute of limitations on being unhappy with being a target of attempted murder now?
posted by pompomtom at 6:52 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


All I have to say to Fidel is: Tell it to Reinaldo Arenas.
posted by blucevalo at 6:52 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like the latter but for some reason I'm bothered by the former. I know the intent of sex-change operations is primarily to bring one's gender in line with their conception of gender, but at the same time I'm bothered by a government subsidizing what is basically cosmetic surgery.
Huh why? It's already a communist country, which means the government is going to be subsidizing a lot of things that it wouldn't be in a capitalist one. It's no different then a normal health plan covering it. And since the government already runs the hospitals and pays the doctors, it won't actually cost that much money.
Castro is such an ass, still railing about the CIA.
Are you a big fan of the CIA or something?
posted by delmoi at 6:57 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


fuq: The same as when American government officials commit crimes.
posted by Grimgrin at 7:00 PM on August 31, 2010


boo_radley: Wikipedia says: "Fabian Escalante, who was long tasked with protecting the life of Castro, estimated the number of assassination schemes or attempts by the CIA to be 638."

there was a film about this a few years ago.

i was always confused by the cia's quasi neurotic obsession with ridding castro of his beard. operation samson-wilter? operation beard-basher? yeah i don't know. maybe some agent somewhere along the line accidentally ingested the lsd they were trying to gas him with and henceforth developed all the hair-brained schemes that followed.
i keep imagining some early 70's spook sporting a pseudo-nehru look getting really angry at his epic fails and exclaiming 'by castro's beard!' while smoke comes out of his ears.

[hah exploding seashells!]
posted by talaitha at 7:01 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know anything about Castro;

It's a San Francisco neighborhood, kid.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:09 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Castro really did'nt understand the overall picture of gays, as well as the
Pope in Rome. although i think changes will someday happen in Cuba
about a million years before any positive changes in Rome.
posted by tustinrick at 7:33 PM on August 31, 2010


Are you a big fan of the CIA or something? Can't I dislike them both?
posted by now i'm piste at 7:34 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Castro had a chance to be the next George Washington. Instead he crowned himself king.

While I can in no way condone my own nation's response to his rule, I will in no way endorse his rule as being other than autocratic and malign.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:37 PM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


In our system the politicians tend to follow opinion, not lead it.

aka mob rule? Nice interpretation of democracy in the USA. You see it in action in California's "vote" on gay marriage. In reality, of course, this was a highly organized and financed maneuver by a powerful lobby designed to hoodwink the simple-minded proletariat in order to achieve the outcome desired by a powerful elite. Differs from dictatorship only in the theatrics.
posted by binturong at 7:52 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hate to trivialize a thread with so many serious topics, but I was tickled by the idea upthread of "assignation attempts," and the need to have a security chief to fend them off ...
posted by jhc at 7:53 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are you a big fan of the CIA or something? Can't I dislike them both?

You can, but it makes little sense to complain about someone 'railing about the CIA' if you think the CIA is bad.
posted by delmoi at 7:57 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Cuba seems way less homophobic than the rest of the Caribbean. Compare to the situation in Jamaica, for example. And they decriminalized homosexuality in 1979? We didn't get Lawrence v. Texas until 2003. My car is older than that.

(Note: Cuban cars also older than their homosexuality decriminalization laws.)
posted by ryanrs at 7:57 PM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


but at the same time I'm bothered by a government subsidizing what is basically cosmetic surgery.

Sex changes are available on the NHS here, have been since 1999. Before that it was up to individual local health authorities if they'd pay for it or not. So, considering Cuba has a nationalised health service, unsurprising this falls under that. People used to have to live as whatever sex for so long, wearing 'feminine' clothes whether they wanted to or not and lesbians were often discriminated against for not being womanly enough or whatever. Not sure how improved it is now.

So although I'm not concerned about a government subsidising gender reasignment surgery, I'm interested in how Cuba will implement it according to thier notions of gender.

Huh why? It's already a communist country, which means the government is going to be subsidizing a lot of things that it wouldn't be in a capitalist one.

You don't have to be socialist to have a health care system that pays for sex-changes. The worldwide default is not necessarily not paying for healthcare.
posted by shinybaum at 8:00 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can't I dislike them both?

Sure. Let me just ask: What other leader of a country has said that institutionalized hatred of gay people is wrong? Certainly not the United States. Obama doesn't care much for the gays, given the company he keeps.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:08 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Are we really supposed to applaud a horrible human being who has destroyed the lives of millions of people, wrecked a country and either committed or ordered countless atrocities because he offers a disingenuous apology for one of his many, many crimes at a time in his life when he is out of power, near death and trying desperately to yet again white wash his legacy?

Really?
posted by oddman at 8:11 PM on August 31, 2010 [8 favorites]


Are we really supposed to applaud a horrible human being who has destroyed the lives of millions of people, wrecked a country and either committed or ordered countless atrocities

What does george Bush have to do with Cuba?
posted by shinybaum at 8:14 PM on August 31, 2010 [25 favorites]


In fact, this is identical to the US politician way of doing things. Out of power, politicos rapidly decline in relevance and influence (unless they successfully transition to teh lobbying sector). It's a great time to produce these "revelations" that coincidentally have the beneficial effect of cleaning up their image for posterity. It's just as transparent as Ken Mehlman's coming out of the closet last week.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 8:20 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Buxom cross-dressers threw fake gold coins at our feet as we discussed the fate of the revolution.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:21 PM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Really, oddman?
posted by dunkadunc at 8:28 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Emphatically.
posted by oddman at 8:33 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


VikingSword: What then are we to make of politicians in the U.S., who are younger by decades, who grew up in a much more free society, who have the benefit of experience that is not being suppressed in a totalitarian system - what are we to make of those politicians who are less enlightened today, today, than an old tyrant on a small island, politicians who practice active homophobia?

What are we to make of them?

I don't know. What are we to make of the accusations that were leveled against Arenas by the Castro regime, that he was a CIA dupe, a rapist of old women, a murdering counterrevolutionary? What are we to make of Arenas slashing his wrists trying to escape Cuba, hoping he'd die rather than be caught by Castro's police? What are we to make of the judge in Arenas's trial who leapt up from the bench and screamed at one of the men that Arenas was falsely accused of corrupting, "Did he suck your cock or didn't he?" What are we to make of Arenas's ultimate imprisonment and all of the efforts by the regime to censor and destroy his writing? What are we to make of the university students in the 1960s who were forced to make humiliating public confessions of their homosexuality and committed suicide afterward? What are we to make of Allen Ginsberg being expelled from Cuba in 1965 after making a public statement that homosexuality was compatible with communism? What are to make of the imprisonment of Ginsberg's Cuban poet friends because they sent "social information to yankee poet Ginsberg"?

After Arenas moved to the United States, he had contempt both for the sort of American politician that you allude to and for the regime in Cuba. He wrote, “The male moralist has such a high regard for masculinity that his greatest pleasure would be for another man to screw him. From that exhibitionism repressive laws arise and Christian or bourgeois Communist morality."

Blazecock Pileon: Let me just ask: What other leader of a country has said that institutionalized hatred of gay people is wrong?

What other totalitarian leader has tried to use a few token words in a BBC interview at the age of 84 to try to atone for countless crimes against gay people over a period of 50 years?

Arenas wrote the day he killed himself, "There is only one person I hold accountable: Fidel Castro. The sufferings of exile, the pain of being banished from my country, the loneliness, and the diseases contracted in exile would probably never have happened if I had been able to enjoy freedom in my country."

dunkadunc: Really, oddman?

Yes. Really.
posted by blucevalo at 8:33 PM on August 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


Are we really supposed to applaud a horrible human being who has destroyed the lives of millions of people, wrecked a country and either committed or ordered countless atrocities[...]

None of these things do we applaud. Quite the opposite. We maintain, that whatever his later statements and/or actions, he cannot undo or whitewash history. He is fully, 100% culpable for monstrous crimes. I don't think there's one poster here who suggested otherwise.

[...]because he offers a disingenuous apology for one of his many, many crimes[...]

We take his apology for what it is - not as absolving him of anything, or lessening his guilt in any way. We take it as an acknowledgment of wrongdoing and ultimate responsibility, which he is not shirking, even if that apology is worth nothing to anyone - it's the principle.

[...]at a time in his life when he is out of power[...]

This is quite misleading. Unlike in a democracy, a dictator who has not been deposed, but who voluntarily relinquishes day-to-day power, to his close relatives, cannot be said to be completely "out of power" - as I wrote before, if Castro found the recent pro-gay political developments in Cuba objectionable, it would have been trivial for him to stop them. He certainly has enough power and authority and the ear of his own brother who is #1. He is still the big symbol of Cuban revolution. So you cannot say that "not having power" is relevant here - quite, quite the opposite.

[...]near death and trying desperately to yet again white wash his legacy?[...]

That presupposes quite a lot - and argues directly against you point. Because it presupposes that he now knows, that persecuting gays was wrong. Rather than persisting in viewing his past actions as justified measures against "perverts", which is a belief sincerely held the world over, sadly enough, even in this country. If - as seems clear - Castro sees homophobia as simple prejudice, then I say "HURRAY" for at least that much - a man of 84 who grew up in times when his society held homosexuality to be an unadulterated evil. He has evolved enough to wish to "whitewash his legacy". I'd rather that he do that, acknowledging officially the wrongs he did, to all and sundry, than to persist in wrong-headed insistence on the inferiority of homosexuals as so many current day politicians do - even in this country.
posted by VikingSword at 8:50 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


ven if that apology is worth nothing to anyone - it's the principle.

How is there any principle in an apology that is worth nothing?
posted by blucevalo at 8:58 PM on August 31, 2010


Buxom cross-dressers threw fake gold coins at our feet as we discussed the fate of the revolution.

Ain't life sweet?
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:01 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Considering the CIA's track record, Castro probably has them to thank for his longevity.
posted by telstar at 9:03 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Progress is progress and I don't see why we can't celebrate it for what it is. What I see in cuba is a concerted, careful (read slow) effort to transform itself into a modern country of its own design which is able to look after its own interests after Fidel's passing.

Just because another country is different from the US doesn't mean its inferior. Heck most parts of the US don't resemble the mythical image of america that americans have built in their heads.
posted by captaincrouton at 9:16 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


VikingSword, why take him at his word? This is a man who has, not once, in his public career done anything that was not ultimately for his own benefit. Why take this to be anything else? This is a man who is a master manipulator who has a genius for making himself look like a martyred saint. Why think this is anything but more propaganda? He has done nothing to earn that credibility, quite the opposite.

Were he to leave Cuba, to enter into his own exile. Where he to renounce the Revolution, to renounce his version of socialism and to argue for true freedom for his people. Then, perhaps, we might say that he had given a meaningful statement. Or better still, where he to use his putative power to reverse the many, many laws and policies that he himself put in place, then we might think he turned over a new leaf. But this is just a token effort. If he is as powerful as you think he is, if he has learned a lesson, why not simply order full equality for LGBT Cubans? It wouldn't be the first time that he issued unilateral mandates. For a man with so much power, as you seem to think, this so-called turn sure seems to lack political substance.

What do these comments really amount to anyway? "It was my fault" he says (but not really the CIA distracted me (for 50 years)). "I am not prejudiced against them" he says. "They should not be persecuted" he implies, without so much as a hint that he's going to lift a finger to makes things better.

Notice that his daughter is the one championing change? Castro merely senses that the tide has turned in Cuba. It is now safe for him to belatedly "admit" that he was wrong. It will cost him nothing in the misguided minds of his followers and earn hin hosannas in the even more misguided minds of admiring outsiders.

Captaincrouton, do you know anything about Cuba? I ask because if you think that the problem here is American jingoism you are horribly mistaken.
posted by oddman at 9:25 PM on August 31, 2010


Luckily we don't have to guess at his motives because they are plain as day in his own words:

Estoy tratando de delimitar mi responsabilidad en todo eso porque, desde luego, personalmente, yo no tengo ese tipo de prejuicios.

"I am trying to limit my responsibility in all this, because, personally, I don't have these kinds of prejudices."


And immediately after, everyone's favorite bigot canard:

Se sabe que entre sus mejores y más antiguos amigos hay homosexuales.

"It's known that some of his best and oldest friends are homosexuals." [to be fair these are not his words but the journalists']


And of course since the CIA was trying to kill him, he was too busy to pay attention to the gays - but not too busy to put them in concentration--oops I mean reeducation--camps.

Give me a break, if it were R-Castro (some state) saying this nobody would fall for it.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 9:41 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Give me a break, if it were R-Castro (some state) saying this nobody would fall for it.

I still haven't seen Obama stand up and say this stuff in the same way. Have you?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:47 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]



Give me a break, if it were R-Castro (some state) saying this nobody would fall for it.

I still haven't seen Obama stand up and say this stuff in the same way. Have you?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:47 PM on August 31 [+] [!]


No, what's your point? I'm no fan of his - are you going for the tu quoque here, or what?
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 9:50 PM on August 31, 2010


I like the latter but for some reason I'm bothered by the former. I know the intent of sex-change operations is primarily to bring one's gender in line with their conception of gender, but at the same time I'm bothered by a government subsidizing what is basically cosmetic surgery.

So it would be better, hypothetically, if Cuba said "Ho-kay, so: you can have this piece of paper that say that you are the gender you feel you are ... but at the same time, we're going to do fuck-all about therapy, hormones, and reassignment therapy?"

Here Cuba is being consistent by backing up words with deeds.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:58 PM on August 31, 2010


are you going for the tu quoque here, or what?

The tu quoque fallacy very clearly has nothing to do with my point. My point was that very few leaders have stood up to even pay lip service in such an apparently transparent and forceful manner, which makes Casto's statement notable in itself.

So, I'll say it again: I haven't seen Obama say the same things Castro has. Have you?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:03 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


There's an apt saying: even scoundrels become pious in old age.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:05 PM on August 31, 2010


I still haven't seen Obama stand up and say this stuff in the same way. Have you?

So, I'll say it again: I haven't seen Obama say the same things Castro has. Have you?

I haven't seen Obama's administration arrest and imprison gay people for being enemies of the state and threats to the purity of national manhood either.
posted by blucevalo at 10:24 PM on August 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


You know who else took responsibility for what happened under his rule before dying?

In this case, however, I think the importance of Castro's words is not that they may be real or not, but that he said them. That this man feels that it's okay for him to say that he's not prejudiced against gays reveals how much the traditionally homophobic Latin American society has changed.
posted by Memo at 10:27 PM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


I haven't seen Obama's administration arrest and imprison gay people for being enemies of the state and threats to the purity of national manhood either.

He has directed his Department of Justice to defend DOMA, which takes important rights away from gay people. He hangs out with Christian extremists, people who support the execution of gays and lesbians overseas, up until the point when it becomes a PR liability.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:29 PM on August 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Not the same thing and you know it. Not even close.
posted by blucevalo at 10:29 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not the same thing and you know it. Not even close.

I think it's too close for comfort, when a leader is so weak-willed as to leave my rights up to the expedience of mob rule and whatever religious figureheads will help him get more votes. I think we'll have to just disagree on this.

Still, to get back to my point, I'd probably agree with you if Obama was actually courageous enough to say the things Castro has.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:35 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think we'll have to just disagree on this.

Fair enough.
posted by blucevalo at 10:39 PM on August 31, 2010


It's good to see Mariela's efforts here, and I hope the lot of GLBT people in Cuba continues to improve.

And, I have to say, SRS is definitely not "basically cosmetic surgery" for people who need it. Having one's body match what one's brain says it should be is extremely important for a person's well-being, and of course there are lots of legal and social situations where having socially-expected genitalia can make a person's life less harrowing. Some related surgeries might be cosmetic -- but even then, we often allow cosmetic surgery for people who need it (breast implants for people who've had mastectomies, plastic surgery for burn victoms, etc.), so there's no reason to deny it to trans folks.
posted by jiawen at 10:58 PM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


I know the intent of sex-change operations is primarily to bring one's gender in line with their conception of gender, but at the same time I'm bothered by a government subsidizing what is basically cosmetic surgery.

Hi. I'm transsexual. I had this "cosmetic surgery" and I had it for free. Not only did the very existence of this surgery give me hope for the whole of my broken twenties, the fact that it was free enabled me to actually fucking have it; me not having £6,000 just lying around. Further, the reduced hormonal load post-surgery means that I should live almost as long as you real people. Finally, it cured my chronic pain, for reasons that are complicated and rambling.

I'm interested in how Cuba will implement it according to thier notions of gender.

I'd expect them to go with the same guidelines most countries follow: at least a year's "real life test" (during which time you must be working, in full-time education, or having some other sort of regular contact with the outside world) before surgery will be authorised. A lot of trans people don't like the guidelines very much and consider them regressive and a bit coercive but there's a lot of professional literature out there supporting them.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:01 PM on August 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


Fair enough.

Agreed.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:05 PM on August 31, 2010


One of the things about the Internet: it's so hard to know what to trust. Wikipedia, for instance, paints Castro as the enemy of homosexuals—but I half expect that take on it (gay concentration camps?) to be invented by some group or another as an attempt to skew public opinion/public history.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:06 PM on August 31, 2010


I've been having connection issues, so this is about an hour later than I originally wrote it, but here goes anyway:

now i'm piste: Castro is such an ass, still railing about the CIA.

As Vikingsword says, it would be kind of silly if he were talking about them in the present tense, but at the time, the CIA was conducting massive operations all over the world. Assassinations, proxy wars, overthrowing governments, attacking anything that threatened US corporate profits, pretty much. We claimed it was a fight against communism, but it was really a war on economic liberalism and local property interests, and it was hugely successful. We have an unbelievable amount of blood and grief on our collective hands, and Cuba was a primary focus for us for many years. His fear was entirely legitimate.

In that kind of environment, it's awfully difficult to separate legitimate political protest from destabilization efforts. Combine that with a very genuine prejudice on Castro's part at the time, and the outcome was entirely predictable -- savage suppression of dissent, and absolute misery for gays in Cuba.

Cuba's economic model is terrible, and Castro has more or less destroyed their living standards. They get great health care and almost nothing else. He's a grade-A villain in my book. But this admission is enough to demote him to grade-A minus. At least he's willing to admit error. I don't think you'll ever see anything similar from the US.

This isn't a good-guys-versus-bad-guys situation. Except for the gays being discriminated against, this is all bad guys in every direction. At least Castro is moderating a little in his old age.
posted by Malor at 11:07 PM on August 31, 2010


I still haven't seen Obama stand up and say this stuff in the same way. Have you?

I know Obama hasn't exactly been on the ball with gay rights stuff, but he's certainly said he supports gay rights (except for marriage) and gay people. To argue that he doesn't even support gay people rhetorically is delusional.
posted by delmoi at 11:13 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Empty words are so disgusting.
posted by polymodus at 11:20 PM on August 31, 2010


This is a man who has, not once, in his public career done anything that was not ultimately for his own benefit.

To quote an early post:
"Near universal literacy, tremendous investment in education, and strong development of public healthcare. They have the longest life-expectancy in the Caribbean, lowest infant mortality, and one of the lowest HIV/AIDS rates in the world."

Those health care accomplishments are to be envied. Seems to me they should somewhat dilute your bile.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:25 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Those health care accomplishments are to be envied. Seems to me they should somewhat dilute your bile.


The ends don't justify the means. Since the persecution of gays was included as a part of the capital cost, I don't find the result so envious.
posted by polymodus at 11:30 PM on August 31, 2010


To argue that he doesn't even support gay people rhetorically is delusional.

It is a fact that he sympathizes with religious figures who were (are) happy to see people get the death penalty for being gay. That the DOMA, DODT and Saddleback Church issues do not raise any red flags with most people should worry sexual minorities everywhere.

Our country has extremist groups that the media gives political legitimacy that they do not deserve, whether it is homophobia or Islamophobia or any other bigotry of a stripe that is politically convenient. It would be nice to hear one's leader stand up for human rights, especially in times of economic hardship that otherwise sow the seeds of fascism and persecution of minorities.

Still haven't heard Obama stand up and say the buck stops with him on gay civil rights, proposing and carrying out action, nonetheless. Maybe when he gets a second term he'll find the same courage as Castro. I don't know of any other leader who's taken responsibility for his or her country's policies towards gay people (except perhaps for a perfunctory apology to the memory of Alan Turing).

So I'd find Casto's words remarkable on that score alone, and I'd welcome their echoes heard around the world and by our own leader.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:35 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen Obama's administration arrest and imprison gay people for being enemies of the state and threats to the purity of national manhood either.

Nor is it 1955, so it's asinine to expect Castro's old beliefs to compete with Obama's modern beliefs.

I think we can likely thank Castro's granddaughter for talking with the old man and helping him understand that gay people aren't a threat, and deserve as much as anyone else.

I know my gramma went to her grave never grokking it.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:35 PM on August 31, 2010


Look at this another way. Being a dictator, he is defacto responsible for everything that happened in his country. Picking on gays out of the blue is sick and perverted, and it diminishes the efforts for those who actually fought for equality and tolerance in Cuba.
posted by polymodus at 11:35 PM on August 31, 2010


Since the persecution of gays was included as a part of the capital cost, I don't find the result so envious.

I guess you reject the good qualities of your own nation, leaders, and most of your citizens. A glass half empty, and getting emptier, sort of guy. Have fun with that!
posted by five fresh fish at 11:38 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess you reject the good qualities of your own nation, leaders, and most of your citizens. A glass half empty, and getting emptier, sort of guy. Have fun with that!


Trampling upon the freedoms of one group in order to build something of "good quality" is immoral.
posted by polymodus at 11:45 PM on August 31, 2010


A glass half empty, and getting emptier, sort of guy.

You're mean.
posted by polymodus at 11:46 PM on August 31, 2010


How is there any principle in an apology that is worth nothing?

Because the apology cannot undo the wrongs suffered by his victims. But the principle is still important, because he officially acknowledges that what he did back then was wrong and unjust and terrible. And he says, plain as day, that homophobia is a prejudice, and an evil. That is very, very important indeed, because while it cannot undo any wrongs, it can prevent new ones. The man is still a hero to a large part of the Cuban population, and a moral authority for many people the world over (however much we may disagree with that). When your hero or moral authority tells you that he was wrong to persecute gay people, and that homophobia is bigotry, that is important. That allows for the possibility that the chain of evil stops with him, instead of being passed onto a new generation. Because the bigots among his followers cannot claim him anymore on that score. Contrast that with a situation where he's unrepentant and allows the evil to be inculcated and passed onto a new generation.

There's an apt saying: even scoundrels become pious in old age.

In so far as reality is concerned, that's a pretty stupid saying - or at least very limited. Because you better believe that there are plenty but plenty of unrepentant old scoundrels. Jerry Falwell went to his grave proclaiming gay hate with his dying breath. So did many, many others. Wouldn't it have been better if he renounced his hatred, instead of passing it on to a new generation of followers? We do not lack for examples of people who did not become pious by one iota in old age or on their deathbed. Hitler did not repent of anti-Semitism. Stalin did not repent of the murder of millions. Nor did Mao, or Pol Pot or... ad infinitum. Fidel Castro, even if his motives were the worst, at least has done this much. That is not an inconsiderable difference - it is, in fact, pretty profound.

why take him at his word? This is a man who has, not once, in his public career done anything that was not ultimately for his own benefit. Why take this to be anything else? This is a man who is a master manipulator who has a genius for making himself look like a martyred saint. Why think this is anything but more propaganda?

Do you not see how you are missing the point? I don't know his heart. I have no idea how sincere his claiming of responsibility is. BUT IT IS NOT IMPORTANT. What is important is what he says. It's like the Rabbis teaching about charity: it doesn't matter why you do it, as long as you do it. I don't care if he's whitewashing. I do care that he understands that it's desirable to whitewash. Because he certainly could be unrepentant.

Memo above has a wonderful link. It's about another old dictator on the verge of death. Also from Latin America. Also a man who committed untold crimes - possibly even worse crimes than Castro. It's Pinochet. Pinochet too, took responsibility for all his actions during his reign. But oh, what a contrast. It is instructive, so pay attention.

Pinochet (from the link above):

"Chile's former military ruler Augusto Pinochet has said he takes political responsibility for everything that happened during his 18 years in power.
In the statement read by Gen Pinochet's wife on his 91st birthday, he defended his bloody 1973 coup, saying he had acted in Chile's best interests.

More than 3,000 people were killed or "disappeared" while Gen Pinochet was in power from 1973 to 1990.

He is facing indictments in two cases of human rights abuses and tax evasion.

"Today, near the end of my days, I want to say that I harbour no rancour against anybody, that I love my fatherland above all," the statement read by his wife Lucia Hiriart said.

"I take political responsibility for everything that was done."

The general said his bloody overthrow of the democratically-elected Salvador Allende had "no other motive than to make Chile a great place and prevent its disintegration".


Pinochet: "I take all responsibility for my actions" AND THEY WERE GOOD! FOR THE BEST OF THE COUNTRY!

Castro: "I take all responsibility" What I did was wrong. It was unjust.

Now, no doubt Castro is minimizing his motivations and is whitewashing to a degree. But he also recognizes that it WAS FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG. Homophobia is bigotry - he understands that, and says that. Pinochet thinks what he did was good, and remains good.

Even if Castro is lying through his teeth, and only doing it for propaganda reasons, then he's still better than Pinochet. Because he, with these statements, is ending any kind of support for such evil ideas. Unlike the unrepentant evildoers the world over (including homophobes in this country). And Castro is doing it not while awaiting trial - he is doing so freely, so that argument cannot be brought by the bigots ("they made him say it to save his skin").

Castro admits homophobia and bigotry is wrong and he was wrong. Unlike the pope, who conducts witch hunts against homosexuals to expel them from priesthood and abets the idea that pedophiles=gays, and who continues to express hateful views of gay people and their place in the world and theology. Funny, how the previous pope visited Cuba, and people celebrated the pope's moral authority while condemning Castro's.
posted by VikingSword at 11:48 PM on August 31, 2010 [13 favorites]


"The CIA was trying to kill me, what was I supposed to do except lock up the faggots in an island prison and have some of them beaten to death by the police? You think you can worry about every little detail in a revolution?"

It's great to see a political leader accept responsibility for his actions.

Anything short of committing seppuku live on television doesn't constitute taking responsibility for Fidel Castro.
posted by Dasein at 12:54 PM on September 1 [4 favorites +] [!]


So which department of fox news do you work for?
posted by hal_c_on at 11:51 PM on August 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't know his heart. I have no idea how sincere his claiming of responsibility is.
But he also recognizes that it WAS FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG

I can't agree with this line of argument, because these two statements seem to be inconsistent characterizations. Maybe I'm missing something though?

I will agree that what Castro said this week is helpful in terms of fighting modern-day discrimination. However, bullshitting (i.e. disregard of truth and falsehood) and whitewashing are self-serving and short-sighted behaviors. As advanced societies, we should move beyond these kinds of modes of thinking. It is somewhat saddening, to me, that the masses can be swayed to change at the word of a hero.

I would rather he did something instead of apologize. His granddaughter seems to be fighting the good fight in this area; I don't think it is fair for his utterances to overshadow or encroach upon her credit.
posted by polymodus at 12:40 AM on September 1, 2010


One of the things about the Internet: it's so hard to know what to trust. Wikipedia, for instance, paints Castro as the enemy of homosexuals—but I half expect that take on it (gay concentration camps?) to be invented by some group or another as an attempt to skew public opinion/public history.

You can wallow in uncertainty, or maybe you can scroll down and check the citations.
posted by polymodus at 12:45 AM on September 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Seems to me they should dilute your bile

I've been quoted a good deal in this thread, mainly leading to off-topic asides. The few positive things I mentioned and that you're referencing were an attempt to give context to a smaller point in the OP, mainly that of the state providing the SRS surgery (or at least promising to).

As for the tone of my posts, while I've made it clear how I feel about Castro, I've kept the conversation going as to the subject of the post and not been answering the one or two attempts at derailing. Some disbelief and anger is to be expected when talking about the dictator who had a marked effect on .... well, you try having your family's land and savings confiscated, then being spied on by neighbors for cheap political points, persecuted for speaking out and finally being 'permitted' to leave your country.

Seems to me you need to look past a few self-serving words of an aging tyrant doing spin control on his legacy, & understand that for years he systematically mistreated the very same countrymen he was ostensibly fighting for. Seems to me you don't know where this bile is coming from. It's great he can change his mind and recognize the common humanity of the same people he previously thought needed to be "re-educated". He's still an ass, just one that's trying be nicer as he feels more and more mortal.
posted by now i'm piste at 12:47 AM on September 1, 2010


you try having your family's land and savings confiscated

It's not about gay rights at all, is it? It's about your family's slavery-based wealth.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:05 AM on September 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Ah, I love Cuba posts on Mefi...

Have they officially been added to the list of things guaranteed to start a war, like female declawing and cat circumcision?
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 3:11 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Remember when Clinton apologized to Native Americans for everything that happened?

Remember when exactly fuck-all changed as a result?

(not a big Castro fan - not a big fan of hollow apologies, either way)
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:03 AM on September 1, 2010


> In so far as reality is concerned, that's a pretty stupid saying - or at least very limited.

Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, etc. But you seem to want everyone to see it your way, so enjoy that.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:09 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously, after reading this thread, I think the CIA did a great job. 50 years of propaganda did pay off, the only meme missing is 'castro ate babies'.
Don't get me wrong, capitalism is great; for 2% of the population...
posted by CitoyenK at 5:38 AM on September 1, 2010


you try having your family's land and savings confiscated

I have all the sympathy for people who had land and wealth under Batista that I have for the peasant-owning noblemen who were sent to the guillotine in the French Revolution, or for the aristocrats who were killed in the Russian Revolution, or even the slaveowners who were dispossessed of their human property after the American Civil War. Castro may be a piece of shit, but I have a hard time thinking less of him than of Batista and those who flourished under him.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:41 AM on September 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Threads like this are so instructive. Really. It's enlightening to be on the inside of an issue and yet be told by armchair sociologists that I'm wrong. It gives me real perspective on my reactions towards causes in which I'm not on the inside. Thank you, for reminding me of this lesson.

Thanks to those of you defending that monster for reminding me of this. I realize that you have no idea what it's like to be Cuban, in exile or not. I realize that you don't have the right frame of reference to understand what has gone on in that country and to its people. You don't know what it's like, really. We all see things from our own points of view. None of us can escape our histories entirely. It's not your fault. I forgive you. More than that, I hope that you never feel the pains that a man like that can inflict on a people. I hope that you never realize how wrong you are. I forgive you.
posted by oddman at 5:47 AM on September 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


five fresh fish: Nor is it 1955, so it's asinine to expect Castro's old beliefs to compete with Obama's modern beliefs.

I'm not talking about belief. I'm talking about acts. Acts that directly resulted in the deaths of many people, gay and otherwise, "old" or not. Also, Castro was not in power in 1955.

Wikipedia, for instance, paints Castro as the enemy of homosexuals—but I half expect that take on it (gay concentration camps?) to be invented by some group or another as an attempt to skew public opinion/public history.

By that logic, you may as well half-expect that Reinaldo Arenas's life is a fabrication. Quite a unique and bizarre theory.

VikingSword: Unlike the pope, who conducts witch hunts against homosexuals to expel them from priesthood and abets the idea that pedophiles=gays, and who continues to express hateful views of gay people and their place in the world and theology. Funny, how the previous pope visited Cuba, and people celebrated the pope's moral authority while condemning Castro's.

I despise the Catholic Church's ongoing war against the reality of modern life. But neither John Paul II nor Benedict XVI ever put on trial or imprisoned gay people for being gay.

Castro's words may well be evidence that times are changing in Latin America, and they well be important in the abstract for the reasons that you've stated, but they do nothing to absolve his past acts. Maybe that will have to wait for Marisela Castro and her generation. I think that Marisela is the important part of this story, not her uncle.

Fidel Castro saying that the persecution of gays under his regime happened because he was "distracted" by the Bay of Pigs is utter bullshit.

CitoyenK: 50 years of propaganda did pay off, the only meme missing is 'castro ate babies'.

At last, the "This is all obviously nothing but CIA propaganda" meme. I was waiting for that to pop up.
posted by blucevalo at 5:50 AM on September 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


blucevalo, I'm no fan of Castro, but can you not understand why an American would be skeptical of the things s/he hears about the man, given the country's history with Cuba over the last fifty years?
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:00 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


This really isn't that big of an admission of anything.

I beg to differ. The key thing here is that he said, in no uncertain terms, that it was wrong - a "great injustice," to be precise. We can wish it never happened, but the truth of the matter is that discrimination against and oppression of LGBT people was and continues to be the norm in most corners of our world. Castro's statement carries a fair amount of weight, because he is an iconic old-guard figure around the world; he is a dictator who is copping to perpetrating a great injustice against a group that it is still "OK" to hate in most places.
posted by Mister_A at 6:06 AM on September 1, 2010


Look , since I'm born I hear that everything that is not american-dream capitalism is Evil.
Russia is worse-off now than 20 years ago, but its ok, the plutocrats are in power.
I am certain Saddam was A-OK until he stopped listening to the the U.S.
Pinochet was great too, he saved Chili from the terrors of socialism... Marcos, the Duvaliers, Idi Amin, that Iranian Shah; the Saudi royals; all great progressist leaders...
But dont forget to hate Chavez.
posted by CitoyenK at 6:09 AM on September 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pope Guilty, yes. I understand that the US's history with Cuba during the Castro regime has been replete with countless efforts, many of which we may never know about, to destabilize or overthrow Castro. I'm not sure what you're getting at. What in this particular situation am I supposed to be skeptical of?
posted by blucevalo at 6:24 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Look , since I'm born I hear that everything that is not american-dream capitalism is Evil.
Russia is worse-off now than 20 years ago, but its ok, the plutocrats are in power.
I am certain Saddam was A-OK until he stopped listening to the the U.S.
Pinochet was great too, he saved Chili from the terrors of socialism... Marcos, the Duvaliers, Idi Amin, that Iranian Shah; the Saudi royals; all great progressist leaders...
But dont forget to hate Chavez.


The enemy of your enemy is very rarely your friend.

Most of the time, it's just bad people all around.
posted by kmz at 6:26 AM on September 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm Cuban. Most of my family came to the United States from Cuba, some more recently than others. Some of them talk about the "re-education camps" with terror even though it's been decades since they left the island. It's not just homosexuals, counterrevolutionaries, and criminals who had to be scared of the camps, but almost anyone. Saying the wrong thing, being homeless, or a tip from a disgruntled neighbor could get you sent away to the tropical gulag for years.

My uncle Jorge spent a few years in one of these camps. At first, he was on Castro's side after the revolution but ended up as the victim of a purge years later. He ended up on an isolated plantation with other prisoners harvesting sugar cane in the caribbean sun for 16+ hours a day. He talked about taking his glasses off whenever he ate because the food was so full of worms.

So, I'm glad that Mr. Castro is recognizing some of his mistakes, but I'll be happier when the whole system gets shut down.
posted by Alison at 6:42 AM on September 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Thank you for posting that, Alison. It's important to remember this end-of-life semikindasorta (but not really) mea culpa comes from the repressive autocratic leader of a place people fled from on rafts made from tires.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 8:55 AM on September 1, 2010


"I have all the sympathy for people who had land and wealth under Batista that I have for the peasant-owning noblemen who were sent to the guillotine in the French Revolution, ... or the slaveowners who were dispossessed of their human property after the American Civil War."

Thanks for comparing my family to slaveowners and feudal lords! Owning a house in Havana for 40 years and having a college savings account & retirement funds is totally the same thing as owning people and systematically keeping them indentured!

Except that, at the time, Cuba had the largest percentage of middle class in Latin America. So it wasn't just the wealthy elites & politically corrupt that lost material goods, but people that had been working hard and building for a better future for generations, or that dared question the armed revolution, or that just didn't like having their freedoms curtailed, or that were gay, aristocratic, academics or just politically unfavorable.

Yes, there were those that profited under Batista. And there were those that profited under Spanish colonialism, and there would have been class disparity under Marti had the War of 1895 turned out differently. There are people at the top of the class pyramid now, and to ignore that is being intellectually dishonest. They have the same last name of the dictator, or have long and loudly denounced others as 'counter-revolutionary', or bribed their way in, or done whatever else they could have to advance under the cult of personality that has prevented the Cuban people from governing themselves for the last 50 years.

Excuse me sir, your ignorance is showing. And it's ugly.
posted by now i'm piste at 9:04 AM on September 1, 2010


five fresh fish : I think we can likely thank Castro's granddaughter for talking with the old man and helping him understand that gay people aren't a threat, and deserve as much as anyone else.

This is what I took away as well. I've never really had reason to follow the situation too closely, and this was the first time I'd heard of her, but if this is true, she's actually quite the hero.
posted by quin at 9:09 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


The government mediate nearly every transaction between citizens. You think this is stranger than not being able own a car without government permission?

?!?

Unless I'm confused, government permission (registration) is required for car ownership in most US states as well. And nearly every transaction between citizens here is likewise mediated by federal, state, or local government.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:16 AM on September 1, 2010


Except that, at the time, Cuba had the largest percentage of middle class in Latin America. So it wasn't just the wealthy elites & politically corrupt that lost material goods, but people that had been working hard and building for a better future for generations...

And where do you think the money came from that they earned? In the colonialist model, there's three classes- the nobility that owns the land (and usually the population), the owned population that does the labor, and the skilled middle class that sells services to the first group. Do you believe that the money your middle-class ancestors took from the wealthy wasn't blood-red?

I'm sorry, but I'm not going to pretend Batistaites weren't/aren't supporters of dictatorship and exploitation, that their wealth wasn't made on the backs of the masses, or that the Castroites being fucking bastards excuses Batista and his cronies- and those who profited from the arrangement, even at a single remove from the blood, deserved all they got. I'm no Castro supporter, despite your need to pretend that opposition to Batista is support for Castro- if the people of Cuba rose up and killed Castro and his cronies, I'd cheer them on. I'm against exploitation and oppression, and I don't give a shit whether the dictatorship, exploitation, and oppression are carried out in the name of capitalism, communism, fascism, or pure self-interest.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:34 AM on September 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe Castro and Batista were (are) both horrible.
posted by Mister_A at 9:59 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unless I'm confused, government permission (registration) is required for car ownership in most US states as well.

You can own a car all you want. But you have to register it to use it off your own property. At least, that's how it's been in every state I've lived in.
posted by hippybear at 10:07 AM on September 1, 2010


r_nebblesworthII: "Estoy tratando de delimitar mi responsabilidad en todo eso porque, desde luego, personalmente, yo no tengo ese tipo de prejuicios.

"I am trying to limit my responsibility in all this, because, personally, I don't have these kinds of prejudices."
"

"delimitar" does not mean "limit". It means "outline, define the boundaries of". I'm not reading this as him saying he wants to take less responsibility, I read it as him saying he wants to state exactly what his responsibility was, that is, to assume it.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:36 AM on September 1, 2010


bluecevalo: Fidel Castro saying that the persecution of gays under his regime happened because he was "distracted" by the Bay of Pigs is utter bullshit.

I don't think it is at all. When you're under constant pressure by a nearby superpower, known well for its active overthrow of leftist governments, how on earth are you supposed to differentiate between legitimate political protest and revolutionaries being funded by the enemy?

A very similar thing is happening in Iran -- our covert operations there are making the government unable to peaceably respond to the fairly liberal citizenry, because they can't tell which ones are CIA-funded and which ones are real.

They can't reliably tell who to negotiate with and who to fear, so they savagely suppress everyone.
posted by Malor at 12:49 PM on September 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't think it is at all. When you're under constant pressure by a nearby superpower, known well for its active overthrow of leftist governments, how on earth are you supposed to differentiate between legitimate political protest and revolutionaries being funded by the enemy?

A very similar thing is happening in Iran -- our covert operations there are making the government unable to peaceably respond to the fairly liberal citizenry, because they can't tell which ones are CIA-funded and which ones are real.


Kudos. That's the most creative and Kafkaesque logic I've heard in this thread yet for the behavior of totalitarian regimes. They can't distinguish who the real enemy is, so how on God's green earth can they possibly avoid persecuting anyone at will?
posted by blucevalo at 2:27 PM on September 1, 2010


I'm not saying it's necessarily a good reaction, bluecevalo, but it's a very human one. Expecting your enemies to show superhuman awareness and self-discipline in the face of active aggression is foolish.

Some of the protest and desire for change in Iran is genuine; some of it is funded by Western agents, purely with the desire to weaken or overthrow that government.

Do you know a way for them to tell which is which? And was there any way for Castro to know?
posted by Malor at 3:49 PM on September 1, 2010


We might compare Castro's statement about the persecution of homosexuals in Cuba with what Tony Blair has just said about Iraq. Blair "sheds tears" over the deaths he caused, but says he feels they were justified. Now that is a non-apology, and if one of my relatives was killed, I'd feel like he had spit on me. In contrast, Castro has not just said that he regrets what he has done, but that it was wrong, and that he supports the efforts that are being made to rectify abuses of the past.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:38 PM on September 1, 2010


At last, the "This is all obviously nothing but CIA propaganda" meme. I was waiting for that to pop up.

Just call it a meme, and you can ignore it! Very clever!

But the truth is that we've been pumped full of anti-Castro propaganda for 50 years, so sorting out the truth of the matter isn't very easy. Of course, if all you want to do is hate Castro, then it's easy as pie.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:46 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


nothing but CIA propaganda

CIA: U.S. Surpasses Cuba in Dead Babies
#45 6.22 United States
#46 6.00 Northern Mariana Islands
#47 5.82 Cuba

Aww yeah, U.S.A #45!

[figures are per 1,000 live births]
posted by ryanrs at 4:25 AM on September 2, 2010


Just call it a meme, and you can ignore it! Very clever!

I was responding to someone else who was also being very clever and using the word "meme." So, cleverness all around! Hurrah!

But the truth is that we've been pumped full of anti-Castro propaganda for 50 years, so sorting out the truth of the matter isn't very easy.

The truth of what matter?
posted by blucevalo at 8:19 AM on September 2, 2010


Aww yeah, U.S.A #45!

When I look, USA is #180 and Cuba #182 (maybe the list you looked at was Americas only?)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:14 AM on September 2, 2010


Whoops, that should be USA #45, Cuba #43 when ranked best-first (which seems more sensible than the CIA's worst-first ordering).
posted by ryanrs at 11:24 AM on September 2, 2010


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